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Channels airing ‘offensive' content to be fined up to Rs 30 lakh

M.J.Sadiq

M Jahabar Sadiq
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If channels deemed "errant" don't obey the advisories issued by the Broadcasting Content Complaints Council (BCCC), they can now be fined up to Rs 30 lakh by the self-regulatory body. Confirming this development, BCCC chairperson Justice AP Shah (retired) told us, "This move was formalized in a meeting of the IBF (Indian Broadcasting Foundation) Board held on July 19. Any channel found violating the advisories or guidelines or repeatedly flouting the programme code can be fined to the tune of Rs30 lakh by the council. This move will be implemented soon."

According to information from sources, the agenda of making the channels fall "in line" dominated the meetings - they say that in the meetings held on May 16 and July 10, it was decided that the "Council should impose financial penalty on channels so as to bring them in line". Earlier, according to Section 9 (Part C) of the IBF Self Regulatory Guidelines, the most BCCC could do was ask a channel showing content that it decided was "indecent" to run an apology scroll. Following the BCCC meetings, a proposal was submitted to the IBF, which had set up the self-regulatory body. In a meeting held on July 19 by the IBF in the capital, which was attended by head honchos of leading GECs, it was decided that channels could now be fined up to `30 lakh.

Following the IBF meeting, an interaction session was held in the evening between the IBF board members, Minister of Information and Broadcasting Manish Tewari and newly-appointed secretary of the I&B ministry, Bimal Julka. The decision to levy fines was announced by Justice Shah, who was a special invitee to the interaction.

The debate over what is adult/'offensive' content, especially on TV, who decides that, and whether banning it altogether is a mature solution, has been raging since the broadcast of the National Award-winning The Dirty Picture was 'banned' on TV by the I&B ministry. Even when it was finally screened, many felt the 100 cuts defeated the purpose of screening it.

With the backdrop of this debate, the meeting, sources added, also saw a decision that the fines will be imposed depending on the "severity, degree and duration of the violation". Other factors like number of complaints received and "harm caused" by the violation to the viewers will also be taken into consideration by BCCC while making the decision.

What the TV fraternity says Pravesh Rana: While views on this development in the TV fraternity are divided, everyone seems to be uncomfortable with the straitjacketing this decision seems to imply. Pravesh Rana, host of Emotional Attyachar, says that he is surprised by the decision. "I am completely aghast by this decision. This means that richer channels can always get away by paying fines and can continue to air 'offensive' content. For movies, the Censor Board gives A certificate or U/A certificate depending on the content. Why can't we have something similar in place for TV programmes, where the channel can show a disclaimer stating that the following show has visuals that are not meant for people below the age of 18?"

Rajev Paul: Rajev Paul, who participated in Bigg Boss, feels that even though certain guidelines are necessary to prevent channels from "going overboard", too much censorship will only lead to curbing of creative freedom on TV. "Of course, there are certain guidelines which should be there for TV shows. But when you are doing something creative, you need certain liberties and you can't follow everything to the T. Until and unless what's shown is not too explicit or degrading to women, that should be fine. This is where the channels come in. They need to be a little judicious in what they telecast. Having said that, I feel society needs to learn to be responsible for its actions. Viewers can't blame everything bad happening in the society on television and films. So, there needs to be a balance between the three."

Sherlyn Chopra: Sherlyn Chopra, co-host on Splitsvilla, says, "The self-regulatory body would benefit much more if it started imposing hefty fines on corrupt politicians and bureaucrats who fail to deal with anti-social elements like rapists, terrorists etc with severity. We live in the YouTube age. A majority of the youth prefer YouTube for unadulterated entertainment. I suggest that BCCC gets introspective, thereby analyzing its real intent. By attempting to target TV channels, it would most definitely violate the essence of freedom of expression which Youngistan truly stands for."

Aanchal Khurana:Aanchal Khurana, winner of season 8 of Roadies, adds, "For channels, it doesn't matter whether they have to pay `30,000 or `30 lakh. They telecast such programmes for TRPs. They shoot the entire 24 hours of a reality show but on the editing table, they decide what to show from that reel. So, the choice lies in the hands of the channel. They know what will get them TRPs, so I don't think they are going to show only 'decent' content just because they might be fined."



Channels airing ‘offensive' content to be fined up to Rs 30 lakh - The Times of India


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